June 12, 2017

7 Reasons To Visit Platte River State Park

Platte River State Park is one of the closest state parks to the Omaha and Lincoln metro areas. There is an abundance of fun things to do with kids, especially during the summer.

Yet, I think it gets overlooked for flashier, newer parks. Time to fix that.

Here’s are seven reasons why you should plan a visit the park. Bringing kids along? Don’t miss this guide to taking kids to Platte River State Park.

Great Hiking Trails

This waterfall at Platte River State Park is my favorite destination of any Omaha metro trail.

I’m guilty of thinking of another state park near Platte River for day trips first (ahem, Mahoney), but when I want to immerse myself and kids in nature, few places nearby can top Platte River State Park.

The trails at Mahoney have nothing on Platte River. First off, there’s a waterfall that’s incredibly quick and easy to get to at Platte River State Park.

For those looking for more of a challenge, Platte River State Park’s terrain will satisfy you.

It’s still the Midwest, so you know, it’s not mountainous, but it’ll do.

Horseback Trail Rides

My son right before we began our trail ride at Platte River State Park.

Your family can ride horses at Platte River State Park. The cutoff age is one year younger than Mahoney’s (age 6). They do a great job matching your ability to the right horse.

The route takes you past a creek, over a bridge and through some inclines in the forest. In all, you’re on your horse for about an hour.

Naturalist Programs

The kids spent more time than I could have imagined trying to catch tadpoles during the naturalist program held at Crawdad Creek at Platte River State Park. The creek is a new feature at the park in 2017.

This is the first summer we’ve really taken advantage of the programming offered at a state park, perhaps because all of our stays in the past have been off-season. At least through June 30, there are daily activities for kids.

Some teach fishing; others might instruct them on creek ecology. There’s a small nature center with aquariums of native Nebraska species. One naturalist program let kids get up close to some of them to learn more about their characteristics.

Tip: If you stay over Memorial Day Weekend, you may even find a special event on that Friday night. When we were there, the kids got to learn some archery, try out an air rifle, and learn about Dutch oven cooking.

Movie Screenings

Saturday nights through the summer, you can go to the park’s little amphitheater to watch a family-friendly movie for free. We brought snacks and drinks, and since it was early summer still, a blanket.

There is bench seating, so you don’t have to bring a chair.

Fun Lake

Paddle boats and fishing are the popular activities at this lake at Platte River State Park.

The lake at Platte River State Park is a lovely one surrounded by tall trees. There’s a marina where you can get a variety of food and cold treats, as well as rent a paddle boat for a half-hour.

Tip: You can check out fishing poles for your kids for free (bait is extra).

Near the lake you’ll find Crawdad Creek. It’s a new addition to the park, and the kids loved it. It features three ponds with little waterfalls flowing from one to the next. There’s a naturalist program at the creek, during which a guide helps kids look for tadpoles and other critters and bugs.

Cheaper Cabins

The camper cabin at Platte River State Park offers beds with bedding, A/C, and a refrigerator like other modern cabins, but it lacks one biggie: Water. You’ll have to walk if you want to take a shower, use the restroom or wash your hands.

Having stayed about both Mahoney and Platte River state parks, I can affirm Platte River has cheaper options, including teepees if you’re so inclined. The options are cheaper because Platte River State Park has things like camper cabins, which has some amenities of a typical cabin (A/C, refrigerator, beds) but not all of them (no water or bathroom).

Having spent a few nights in a camper cabin, I’m cool with spending a few more bucks to have a bathroom next time.

Proximity to other fun stuff

The view from my lounger at the Mahoney State Park aquatic center. The pool has an annoying schedule, and is closed over dinner time; however, if you go when it’s open for those few hours after dinner, you’ll find a much less crowded pool.

The great thing about Platte River State Park is that it’s near places like Mahoney State Park, so you can stay (cheaply) at Platte River, and then take the 10-minute drive to the other park to enjoy what’s there as well.

I’d recommend heading to Mahoney to the aquatic center, which is much larger than Platte River’s little pool, plus it has water slides and a kids area. If it’s a rainy day, nothing beats letting the kids run wild in the indoor play area at Mahoney, too.

 

If you go

Platte River State Park

Where: 14421 346th St., Louisville, Neb.

Cabin & Camping Information

Visiting in the off-season? Read this post on what to do at Platte River State Park in the winter.

 

 

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